Thursday, 18 October 2012

Chingri malai curry or Bengali-style prawns with coconut

I don't cook masses of Bengali food, but with the traditional festival of Durga Puja looming, I thought I'd dig out this classic. Chingri malai curry (or indeed malaikari), is a very simple dish combining prawns, whole spices and the rather un-typical Bengali ingredient of coconut milk. Some reading tells me that the word 'malai' probably derives from Malay, and this explains the use of coconut milk too. Like many Indian recipes, there are lots of versions of this around, so this is my one.

Recipe (enough for two as a main dish):
Around 250g raw prawns (shell off, and de-veined)
1 small red onion
1 fat clove of garlic
A thumb-sized piece of ginger
1 tsp turmeric
4-5 green cardamon pods, split
1 large, dried bay leaf
1-2 pieces of cinnamon or cassia bark
1-2 green, Indian finger chillis, pierced a few times
1 tsp ground coriander
2-3 tblsp sunflower oil
Around 100g coconut cream
Around 100ml hot water
1-2 tsp salt for seasoning

Mix the prawns with the turmeric and a teaspoon of salt, and put in the fridge for an hour or so. If you're not going to cook the prawns until much later, leave out the salt. While the prawns are busy turning yellow, make a paste from the onions, garlic and ginger. It's definitely easiest to do this in a food processor, but a pestle and mortar would do the job too. Take the prawns out of the fridge 10 minutes or so before you want to start cooking, and add the salt (if you haven't earlier).
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan, and when it's hot (but not smoking) add the prawns. Cook for a couple of minutes, until they are lightly coloured but not fully cooked through. Take the prawns out of the pan, add another tablespoon of oil (if needed) and add all the whole spices. Turn the heat down, so that they are just gently sizzling. After a couple of minutes put the ground coriander, chillies and onion paste in. As they soften, add the water to the coconut cream to create coconut milk which is the thickness of single cream. You may need to adjust the amount of water or coconut cream to achieve this. When the spices and paste have cooked for a good 10 minutes or so, put the coconut in and simmer for around 5 minutes to create a sauce. Put the prawns back in, add a little salt, and simmer again for 5 minutes until the prawns are fully cooked.

You should have a rich, thick coconut gravy which is subtly spiced and still tender prawns. Serve with plain, boiled rice, and let out a small sigh of satisfaction once you've finished eating.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Broccoli pesto mash

I really like broccoli, it's probably one of the green vegetables that I eat most regularly. The tenderstem stuff is ideal as a simple side dish with butter and salt and pepper, and the big green fists of florets are perfect for everything from stir fries to pakoras. So when I was looking for something green to make a pesto with I thought I'd try some cooked broccoli. And it was really good! You can add this 'pesto' to pasta, or if you keep it thick just have it as a mash. I've had it with some pan-fried salmon instead of mashed potatoes, but it would probably go with most things (apart from pudding). I've included a basic recipe below, but do alter the amounts of things based on taste.

Recipe (enough for two):
Around 250g of broccoli florets
1 medium clove garlic
1 big handful pine nuts (lightly toasted if preferred)
Around 50g hard Italian cheese such as parmesan, grana padano, percorino or a properly veggie substitute
Around 1-2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the broccoli in boiling water for around 8-10 minutes. You want it to be fully cooked through, and probably a bit softer than if you were just eating it on its own (but not boiled to a deathly grey). Drain, and put it and all the other ingredients apart from the oil into a food processor, and whizz together. I have a small Kenwood mini-chopper and make this pesto in two batches, mixing it all together afterwards. Once the pesto ingredients are all combined, but not totally pulverised, add some oil. If you want a loose pesto to go on pasta be generous with the olive oil, but for the mash just use a tablespoon or so to bring it all together. Add some salt and pepper and you're good to go. This process is a bit more complicated without mechanical assistance, but you could probably still crush the garlic, nuts and cheese in a pestle and mortar, mash the broccoli separately and then combine the two together.

I've made this, and allowed it to cool, before it mixing it with hot pasta for dinner. And had it hot straight after being blitzed too. Broccoli is indeed the king of versatility.